Many avenues to help the homeless this season

By Jesse Wright | Staff Writer

Homeless people are a part of downtown.

When walking downtown, every street corner seems to include a cup outstretched, and every awning seems to cover a pile of ragged blankets sheltering a homeless person who may be in need of a helping hand this holiday season.

The Chicago Tribune reported over the summer that there may be over 4,000 homeless people in the city, with 1,500 of those living outdoors. During the winter months and at Christmastime especially, many may feel a need to do something—to offer a sandwich or a few bucks to a homeless person, to donate a few cans to a food pantry or to give their time or money to a charity. But what’s the best course of action?

“I’d like to adopt an all of the above approach,” said Michael Nameche, the director of development for the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, located on Lake Street near the New Eastside.

Since 1980, Nameche’s organization has worked to prevent and end homelessness in the city, and Nameche said he’s learned two things—that there is no one solution and that everyone can do something.

“[Homelessness is] a big problem, and so most homeless service agencies will accept help at whatever level someone can give,” he said. “If I were to make suggestions, there are choices. There is no wrong way. That’s the important thing. Some folks choose to donate money and that is very effective because it’s the most liquid of help so it can be addressed toward whatever is needed at the moment…Others like to donate their time and that is also very valuable.”

That said, Nameche compared volunteering to working out: It is most effective if people do it more than once. “When a nonprofit makes an investment in a volunteer, they like them to stick around for a while,” he said. “If you know you can’t sustain it for a while, maybe that’s not the best avenue.”

If you don’t think you can sign on to a long-term commitment, never fear; there are other options. One route, especially for groups like residential buildings and neighborhood organizations, is hosting a drive for clothing, food or money. “Drives for things that are needed are good; however, I think it’s always best to have a conversation with a local nonprofit to come up with someone that you know will be received well.,” Nameche said.

Nameche said sometimes nonprofits get surprised with a truckload of donations they don’t need or cannot use, and it can be hard to turn away someone’s genuine desire to help. “It’s terrible if someone brings you a shipment of hats and scarves if you’ve just got a whole bunch of hats and scarves,” he said.

Nameche said another benefit of talking to a local nonprofit is would-be donors may be inspired to collect things that would have never occurred to anyone. Nameche said donations like CTA passes could mean the difference between a job and unemployment for some homeless people.

“People of very modest means might not have a dime to them, but they might have to get across town to get to a doctor’s appointment or a job interview. Imagine if you have a job interview but you can’t get to it because you can’t get on the CTA,” Nameche said.

He also said a winter or holiday drive is a great start, but organizations that do routine work with local homeless nonprofits could make a real difference in their neighborhoods. This goes for individuals, too. “Much like going to the gym, it’s a good idea to establish relationships with an organization you feel a connection to because it’s doing good in your community,” he said.

Nameche said volunteers and organizations should feel free to shop around to find a good fit.

“Finding a good volunteer gig is like getting on the dating scene; you have to find a good match,” he explained. “Much like dating, you have to be patient, and you have to put yourself out there, and if the first time you contact a nonprofit and they don’t seem to jump on what you have to offer, don’t get discouraged just because it’s not the right fit.”

Nameche said there is something out there for every volunteer. Some nonprofits need volunteers in the evening as tutors, others need help during the daytime and some just need volunteers on the weekends. Volunteering could be a great way to help for retired residents and anyone on a fixed income who doesn’t want to make a financial commitment—especially those who have time during the day.

“If somebody is available during the day, that’s the rarest kind of volunteer,” Nameche said.

He said there are also groups, like his, where volunteers don’t even need to work directly with the homeless population, if that is a concern. Organizations like Coalition for the Homeless need volunteers to do simple office jobs. Volunteers could make a real difference “stuffing envelopes or doing office work so we don’t have to pay people to do that,” he said.

No matter what one does, it all makes a difference, Nameche said.

“Sometimes when people ask, ‘What can I do to help the homeless?’ What they’re asking is, ‘Should I give to people in the street?’ That’s a very personal decision and we don’t have a position on if it’s right to give to people on the street,” he said. “It’s right for some people. Some people carry cash, some people don’t. … Some people like that face–to-face interaction.

“If you’re troubled by seeing people on the street as most people should be, then come up with your own response. Just know that the best thing is to get folks who are in dire need of help connected to professional services. That’s sometimes something you don’t have time for, but you do have time to slip them a couple of bucks. It’s not wrong. But don’t be a cynic and find your response to that issue. It might be buying them a sandwich once a week or it might be volunteering once a week. Everybody has their own pathway, and if everybody did something, then the needle would move.”

Nameche said anyone who wants to get started finding a local nonprofit to get involved with can visit www.volunteermatch.org and see what is available close by. Visit www.chicagohomeless.org to find out more about the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.

MCA exhibit offers up Midwestern sensibility in Western setting

By Jesse Wright | Staff Writer

In November, the Museum of Contemporary Art opened a new exhibition, “West by Midwest,” showing works by a collection of artists from the Midwest who migrated West in order to develop their artistic vision.

The art in the collection spans much of the middle part of the 20th century and the early parts of this century, and the media varies from sculpture and photography to painting and knitting. In total, the exhibition includes 80 pieces from artists like Billy Al Bengston, Andrea Bowers, Judy Chicago, Anna Halprin, David Hammons, Mike Kelley, Senga Nengudi, Laura Owens, Sterling Ruby and Ed Ruscha.

This exhibit represents a diverse crowd creating over a long period of time, and Charlotte Ickes, a post-doctoral student and MAC Curatorial Fellow for the exhibit, explained that viewers should avoid being reductivist in looking for common themes when visiting the collection.

“[The exhibition] can mean many different things because it’s many different artists,” she said. Not only did the artists work in different media across different times, but some were expressly political, and even that political emphasis shifted throughout the decades.

Ickes said the only real connective through-line in the exhibition is the constant attempts by each artists to do innovative work in whatever medium they’re working in.

“Those are the shared concerns you’ll see throughout the show,” she said.

Rather than emphasizing any sense of shared aesthetics or point of view of the Midwestern artists, the collective exhibition illustrates how regional artists impacted the national art scene—or at least the California scene in response to their individual concerns and aesthetics.

For a deeper dive, don’t miss a talk on Dec. 9 led by artist Barbara Kasten. Kasten will lead a walkthrough of the exhibition with Ickes and will talk about her work, as well as the work of her favorite fellow artists. This begins at 2 p.m. and it is free with museum admission.

The exhibition is on display now through Jan. 27, 2019 at the MCA. The MCA is located at 22 E. Chicago Avenue and is open Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.,Wednesday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., on Friday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The museum is closed Christmas and New Year’s Day.

 

What’s new at the Christkindlmarket

By Elizabeth Czapski | Staff Writer

Since 1996, the Christkindlmarket in Chicago has been delighting visitors with holiday food and wares with European flair. Modeled after the famous Christmas market in Nuremberg, Germany, Chicago’s version hosts vendors from Illinois, Germany and even as far away as Bethlehem and Nepal. This year’s market offers a mixture of the familiar with some new additions.
Here’s what’s new this year, according to Kate Bleeker, director of expansion and market development for Christkindlmarket Chicago.

The Mugs
Christkindlmarket’s signature mugs have become a collector’s item over the years, and this year the market will offer three-packs of mugs representing each of the market’s locations—Chicago, Naperville and Milwaukee. Individual mugs are also for sale; fill one with Glühwein to warm yourself up. For kids, there’s a special “Oma” (Grandma) snowman mug.

The Vendors
More than 50 vendors from all over the world will be at the market selling handcrafted pieces, Christmas decorations, food and beverages. New this year is a pop-up booth that will rotate vendors every few days to give guests a unique experience every time they visit.

Who’s hungry?
Cheese lovers rejoice! Food vendor Brunkow Cheese will be offering an indulgent new food item—Raclette sandwiches. Raclette cheese is melted, then spread onto fresh bread and finished with the toppings of your choice. Look for it at the Baked Cheese Haus booth.

This year, Christkindlmarket Chicago is partnering with Hannah’s Bretzel. The sandwich chain will have its own “Official Sandwich of the Christkindlmarket,” and the market’s souvenir mugs will be available for purchase at all Hannah’s Bretzel Chicago locations.

For a full list of vendors and events, see Christkindlmarket.com.

Just in time for Christmas, dino SUE gets a new home

Staff reports

SUE, the iconic T. rex who held the coveted spot on the Field Museum’s main floor until this past February, will finally be on display in a new home this holiday season.

The skeleton had been removed from Stanley Field Hall to make room for the museum’s new Titanosaur cast, Maximo, but on Dec. 21, SUE’s new suite will open, debuting a brand new habitat to museum visitors.

The biggest and most complete T. rex skeleton in the world, the skeleton that had been on display had, nevertheless, grown out of date given new scientific understanding of T. rex anatomy. So, since coming down, scientists and museum workers have been updating SUE’s skeleton to match the latest science.

One of those updates will be the addition of a set of bones across SUE’s abdomen called gastralia that helped the T. rex breathe, according to Pete Makovicky, the museum’s curator of dinosaurs.

SUE will now live in the Field Museum’s Griffin Halls of Evolving Planet, in a 5,100 square-foot suite filled with interactive displays that mimic the environment an actual T. rex would have lived in.

Among those displays will be “cutting-edge animations showing how SUE would have interacted with other dinosaurs and what the landscape would have looked like,” said Jaap Hoogstraten, Director of Exhibitions, in a press release.

The move has been in the works for quite some time, said Field Museum president Richard Lariviere, in a press release.

“We’re excited to finally complete our decades-long plan to put SUE in a proper scientific context alongside our other dinosaurs and offer an experience that really shows off why SUE is widely considered the greatest dinosaur fossil in the world,” said Lariviere in a press release.

SUE’s new environment “will give visitors a glimpse of the world SUE lived in,” said Hoogstraten in a press release. The new display will also explain how SUE made it to Chicago.

“People will also get to learn about SUE’s discovery and the things scientists have learned about SUE over the last few decades—there’ll be lots of new information and experiences that we weren’t able to get across with the old display,” said Hoogstraten, in a press release.

“This is the biggest, scariest, and most impressive SUE’s ever looked,” said Lariviere, in a press release.

Get streetwise about the New Eastside: A look back at the story of our streets

By Elizabeth Czapski, Staff Writer

 

City streets can reveal a lot about a neighborhood’s history, and the streets in New Eastside are no exception.

Streetwise Chicago: A History of Chicago Street Names, a book by Don Hayner and Tom McNamee, offers a peek into the histories of street names in Chicago. Some are straightforward, while others are more colorful.

 

South Water Street

South Water Street, according to Streetwise Chicago, was at one time located along the river, where Wacker Drive is today. East South Water Street now runs east to west from North Harbor Drive, eventually merging with Wacker Drive.

The old South Water Street, according to Streetwise, was at one time the location of Chicago’s major market place, with numerous produce stalls. The produce market was relocated to 14th and Morgan in the 1920s when Wacker Drive was built.

 

Wacker Drive

According to Streetwise Chicago, Wacker Drive is named after Charles H. Wacker (1856–1929). He was a brewer, the chairman of the Chicago Plan Commission and director of the 1893 Columbian Exposition.

Wacker helped convince the city to preserve its lakefront and was involved in the development of Burnham and Bennett’s 1909 Plan of Chicago, which produced notable buildings such as the Field Museum and Union Station.

 

Stetson Avenue

Stetson Avenue, which runs north to south from East Wacker Drive to East Randolph Street,  along the eastern side of Prudential Plaza, is named after wealthy businessman Eugene W. Stetson (1882–1959).cording to Streetwise Chicago. Stetson began his professional life in Macon, Georgia, where he earned $40 a month as a bank clerk. He eventually rose to chairman of the executive committee of the Illinois Central Railroad and was a director of the Morgan Guaranty Trust Company. Stetson Avenue was built and named for him in 1955.

Moving the South Water Street Market and turning the street into a double-deck drive was Wacker’s idea.

 

Beaubien Court

North Beaubien Court runs north to south between East Lake Street and East Randolph Street, between Prudential Plaza and Michigan Avenue. It’s a short street with a long history behind its name.

 

According to an April 2017 DNAinfo story, Chicago’s second non-Native settler was a man named Jean Baptiste Beaubien — not to be confused with Chicago’s first non-Native settler, Jean Baptiste Point du Sable. Beaubien was born in Detroit and came to Chicago in 1804, left in 1812 after the battle of Fort Dearborn, and came back around 1817. He was an agent for the American Fur Company and his house was built where the Chicago Cultural Center now stands. Elections were held at his house and at one time he was the wealthiest man in the city.

But there was another, younger Beaubien — Mark, Jean Baptiste’s brother — and Streetwise Chicago makes clear both brothers were noteworthy in their own way. Mark Beaubien came to Chicago and opened the Sauganash Hotel in 1826 at the corner of Lake and Wacker.

“Beaubien would sit on his hotel’s front porch, surrounded by a few or more of his 23 children and shoot ducks on the Chicago River,” Streetwise reports. The younger Beaubien was also a ferryman, a fur trader, a heavy drinker and a “truly wicked fiddle player.”

The street is named for one — or both — of the Beaubien brothers.

 

Theft, bucket boys come up at CAPS Meeting

By Elizabeth Czapski, Staff Writer

Published October 2, 2018

Theft, ridesharing and street performers were topics of discussion at the September Community Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) meeting in the 1st District.

 

Theft made up more than half of the district’s crime from Aug. 10 to Sept. 13, and pickpockets account for a lot of those thefts, according to Sgt. Anthony Dombrowski.

 

Dombrowski said pickpockets are attracted to crowded locations, like restaurants, where people aren’t as focused on their personal safety.

 

Thieves also target people whose valuable items are visible.

 

“You should try to be as circumspect as possible with your personal possessions,” Dombrowski said. “I would say 50 percent of our robberies are because people are exposing their cell phone.”

 

Another concern was brought up by a resident, who asked about fake Uber and Lyft drivers in the city.

 

Dombrowski said fake drivers are most often out late at night and early in the morning, looking for intoxicated people to victimize. During the day, actual Uber and Lyft drivers are victimized when they open their car doors and people come into the car to steal items, he added.

 

Dombrowski said he doesn’t think fake Uber and Lyft drivers are a safety issue as long as passenger are taking common sense precautions. Passengers should verify the driver’s identity before getting into the car, he said.

 

Another resident raised concerns about the bucket boys downtown. Using a meter, they measured 100 decibels near the bucket boys, which the resident said could harm hearing.

 

Dombrowski said dealing with this issue is challenging.

 

“The municipal code is very clumsy and very difficult to enforce,” he said. The noise is irritating to many who live and work in the area, but the bucket boys receive a lot of monetary support from people downtown, he said.

 

Dombrowski said people who are not bothered by loud street performances think it’s “charming.”

 

He said the solution is unclear, but being able to quantify the noise level is “wonderful” and suggested the resident contact the Environmental Protection Agency.

 

“These different lifestyles, these different activities are clashing with people that want to live a normal life in downtown Chicago,” he said. “Where’s the balance in that? I don’t know.”

 

Reilly announces updates to Parcel O plans

Staff report

In late September, Alderman Brendan Reilly announced that Magellan Development agreed to work a number of public improvements into their project at 193 North Columbus Drive, commonly known as Parcel O.

The public improvements came from a public meeting held with the New Eastside Association of Residents (NEAR) in July. Reilly pointed out that the development group did not need to agree to any public improvements by law, but they agreed to build the improvements after extensive negotiations with Reilly. In a recent newsletter, Reilly credited the public support for the public improvements with the success of the negotiations.

Magellan will pay for the improvements, which are expected to aid pedestrian and traffic safety.

The proposed improvements include a pedway connection through Village Market and Blue Cross/Blue Shield to the greater pedway, improved lighting, public elevators servicing the 3 levels of Columbus Dr., as well as numerous improvements for pedestrians and vehicles.

Some of those improvements include:
•    A new traffic signal will be installed at Upper Columbus and East South Water Street.
•    At the intersection of Upper Columbus Drive and South Water Street, the crosswalk will be realigned on the south leg of the intersection. The east end of the crosswalk will move to the corner next to the Aqua building rather than the corner next to the fire station.
•    At the intersection of Upper Columbus Drive and South Water Street, a curb bump-out on the southwest corner will be installed to narrow the roadway and pedestrian crossing distance on Columbus Drive.

Reilly said the project must get Lakefront Protection Approval from the Chicago Plan Commission, and when that vote occurs, Reilly will announce it in his newsletter.

CAPS meeting dominated by noise complaints

By Jesse Wright | Staff Writer

Published September 4, 2018

At the August Community Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) meeting in the 001st District, Sgt. Anthony Dombrowski announced new options for homeless residents in the area.

Dombrowski said some of the shelters will now admit pets as well as people who are intoxicated and who would otherwise be tossed out of other shelters. One new shelter, operated by the Franciscan Outreach program, is specifically for people on Lower Wacker in the downtown area.

Meanwhile, area residents complained about bucket boys and the noise they make, playing buckets for tips from tourists.

Dombrowski said if people are bothered by noise, they should call police because regular patrol officers are not always there to enforce noise restrictions without a complaint.

“You should call 911 and say that there is a noise disturbance and you want to be a complainant and speak to a police officer [in person], because you can’t be a complainant over the phone.”

Upgrades coming to Lakeshore East Park

By Angela Gagnon | Staff Writer

Published September 4, 2018

After complaints of graffiti, vandalism and general wear and tear at Lakeshore East Park, repairs are finally coming.

According to a letter from the Office of Alderman Brendan Reilly, Magellan Development Group, the park’s developer, have long term improvements planned. These include replacing the play area surface material in the tot lot and new playground equipment that will offer more activities for children of all ages.

Gabby Hart, the director of planning and development for Reilly’s office, confirmed the plans. “Plans are in place for full replacement of the playground surface and upgrades to the playground equipment are planned as well,” Hart said.

Hart said the tot lot will be closed when repairs are being made, but will otherwise remain open throughout the project.

Repairs to the surface area are already underway. The other improvements are expected to take place over the next few months and be completed by the end of the year.

SOAR serving lunch to first responders, Streeterville

By Jesse Wright | Staff Writer

September 4, 2018

Once again, the Streeterville Organization of Active Residents (SOAR) is preparing for its annual First Responders Appreciation Day. The event will be held Sept. 13, from 11 a.m.–2 p.m. at the Chicago Fire Department Engine Company 98, 202 E. Chicago Ave.

Bob Johnson, chairman of the safety and sound management taskforce for SOAR, said the event is a way to give back to the men and women who keep the neighborhood safe.

“The organization wanted to give thanks to our firefighters and our police officers and our paramedics who serve the community,” he explained. “We think they do a terrific job.”

In addition to the public luncheon, SOAR will deliver sandwiches from Timothy O’Toole’s Pub to the 18th Precinct District at 10 p.m. to recognize the overnight shift workers.

This year, the event moved from the Lakeshore Field House to a fire station two blocks west. Johnson said in prior years, getting the firefighters to go to an offsite location and then sit down for a meal could be tricky, especially if a fire broke out.

“The firefighters never got a chance to attend the event because they’d walk in, get a bite of food and then get called out,” he said.

However, Johnson said the event is for the community and not just for first responders.“Just show up,” he said. “Come as you are.”

Johnson said that while a local alderman or congressman might stop in, the lunch is less a political event as it is a way to build community.

“We just think it would be nice for our first responders to get to know our people and for our people to get to know them.”

Johnson said the lunch has been an event for years, and is something of a tradition in Streeterville.

“I think it was done shortly after the 9/11 [ceremonies], as a way to remember the 343 firefighters killed in 9/11,” he said. “It’s a time of year we think of them more so than during the rest of the year.”

For more information, visit the SOAR website, soarchicago.org.

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